SRMU, family of erstwhile leader fight for control

Intervening in a power struggle between members of a family and a trade union to gain control of an engineering college in Tiruvarur, the Madras High Court has put a new scheme in place to administer the Railway Mazdoor Union Trust and the college under it.

The Southern Railway Mazdoor Union (SRMU) and family members of erstwhile leader M.Namasivayam have been locked in a battle for taking over the reins of the Trust and the college.

Concluding that there was something seriously wrong with the management and administration of the affairs of the Trust, Justice V.Ramasubramanian said, “The management and administration of the affairs of a public charitable trust could not be left entirely to the members of a family, as though it is a private family business concern.”

He said, “The trust shall be managed and administered by a board of trustees comprising seven persons, including a former Vice-Chancellor, academics, one member nominated by the SRMU and another member from the lineal descendents of the late Namasivayam, the founder.”

M. Rajendran, former Vice-Chancellor, Tamil University, was made chairman of the board, while other names were announced.

In 2004, the SRMU represented by its general secretary N.Kanniah and vice-presidents A. Raja Sridhar and P.Kumaresan filed the civil suit in the Madras High Court seeking to frame a scheme for effective management of the Mazdoor Welfare Trust and Anjalaiammal Mahalingam Engineering College, Kovilveni, Tiruvarur district, established by its erstwhile SRMU general secretary M. Namasivayam.

The trust was formed in 1987 by Namasivayam as the founder-cum-managing trustee, while two other office-bearers of the SRMU were the other trustees. The engineering college was established with contributions from railwaymen.

Since February 2001, the whereabouts of Namasivayam were not known.

In the suit, the SRMU alleged that family members of Namasivayam moved in as trustees and started functioning as if the trust and the college were their family property. It sought their removal from the trust.

The family members said the trust was established by Namasivayam in his individual capacity and not in his capacity as SRMU leader. For establishing the college, donations were received from several philanthropists, employees of public sector and private sector undertakings.

Disposing of the suit, Mr. Justice Ramasubramanian concluded that the trust and the college were born out of the sweat, blood and toil of poor mazdoors of the railway and the family members of Namasivayam had no role to play.

Exploring the possibility of keeping SRMU totally away from the trusteeship, the Judge made sharp observations on its growing clout: “The office-bearers of the trade union appear to have become invincible and unbeatable power centres, both within the organisation in which they are employed and outside. I do not know if they had ever gone to their offices as any other humble servant of the Railways would have. After getting appointed to clerical posts and starting a career with a humble beginning, office-bearers of the union appear to have gained enormous power and clout that even senior level officers could not imagine… This shows that power need not necessarily grow out of the barrel of the gun, but can also grow out of ballot papers.”

Mr.Justice Ramasubramanian asked the SRMU to nominate one serving Railway employee, who should not be a union office-bearer. He should not have any criminal case against him.

The Judge also said one representative from the founder’s family would serve on the trust for three successive years.